Dear Leah Renee,
I’ve heard that smoothies are similar in health benefits to that of juicing, but more filling. I have found that most smoothies are really high in sugar and made with ingredients that aren’t that healthy. Do you have some good tips for making smoothies to keep my diet on track and still get extra nutrients that I need? Thanks so much! ~Amanda, TX
Amanda, you are so right! Many smoothies seem like they’re a healthy option to go with or the perfect post-workout drink, but just because something contains fruit as an ingredient does not mean it is providing all the nutrition we’re looking for without all the extra sugar and calories. Conversely, just the same as they can be calorie and sugar loaded, smoothies have the power to be nutrient rich without all the calories (and sugar!) and quite the balanced meal.
I think the best way to explain how beneficial a smoothie can be is to list all the amazing ingredients that are great to make one nutrient-packed beverage yourself. If it’s not on the list, it does not mean it’s not good for you. The items I below are ones I recommend to be combined together for a healthy low calorie, high energy, nutrient dense drink. Many of the items contain SO many nutrients that they could fit in just about every category. For instance, bee pollen contains essential fatty acids, amino acids, antioxidants, and protein. Chia seeds are fibrous, rich in omega-3′s, protein, essential amino acids, and antioxidants! I felt like I needed to separate them to what I thought was best fit.
As you can imagine, making a list for fruits and vegetables can go on for a long time, but again I chose to highlight ones I thought work best most frequently in smoothies. The more that’s listed, the more complicated it gets. All of these ingredients should be pretty easy to find in your local natural foods store, and of course, buy organic when possible! The sweeteners should be kept at a minimum, that includes the amount of fruit added (even foods that are really good for you should not necessarily be consumed in abundance). You can choose one from each category, or multiple from just a few–it’s up to you! I think half the fun is the trial and error, because more often than not even if you don’t like it at first, it doesn’t necessarily have to go to waste! If it’s too bitter, add a little more stevia. If it’s lacking some flavor, add some cinnamon. If it’s too thick, add some more liquid. Too runny? Throw some ice in the blender or add a little more banana. If you are looking for a meal replacement, be sure to add some extra protein. If you’re looking for a snack, then just throw in a few ingredients like a fruit, greens, antioxidant, and a few nuts (you may use nut butters interchangeably–just remember portion control again. One tablespoon is plenty for a snack when combined with other ingredients!). Remember to read the labels when it comes to items like spirulina, nutritional yeast, any fiber or added protein, chia seeds, and silken tofu. You should stick to what calls for one serving amount (such as one teaspoon of spirulina).
My favorite spirulina:
My favorite goji berries:
Fruits can be frozen or fresh. It’s a common misconception that you lose a lot of nutrients if the fruit is frozen. I think in some cases, it can be just the opposite! Unless you are buying local, grow it yourself, or you’re choosing fruits (and veggies–frozen spinach is awesome) that are in season and did not have to travel far, chances are you’re not missing out–the fruits and veggies are usually packaged straight away and frozen so nutrients remain intact. Don’t forget you can freeze your own fruit too! Take advantage of the summer months when fruit in plentiful, in season, and on sale. Buy more and store! Make sure to wash them first before putting them in the freezer! Banana’s? Freeze them too! Peel off the skin and slice them up. Frozen bananas make for an awesome smoothie texture. Are you salivating yet?! Go! Start blending!
I know, I know, you want a recipe! Here’s what my typical smoothie looks like (please, don’t let the color fool ya!):
Ingredients: a cup (or two!) of spinach, a (pitted) date, half a (large) banana, 4 strawberries, 1 scoop of RAW Protein Powder, 1 teaspoon Spirulina, 1/2 packet of stevia, and 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (and ice). Cinnamon on top! I like to sprinkle a few goji berries on top, too